Why have I been asked to attend an interview under caution?
We have asked you to attend an interview under caution because we believe that there are grounds to suspect that you have committed a criminal offence.
This does not mean that we believe that you are guilty and will prosecute you. It means that the evidence we have obtained so far suggests that you may have committed an offence.
The interview will give you the opportunity to provide an explanation of the events that have happened. However, if we find any evidence during the interview that you have committed an offence, you may be prosecuted.
Do I have to attend an interview?
No, but if you do not attend it will not prevent us from taking further action, such as prosecuting you in the Criminal Courts.
Who can come to the interview with me?
Anyone who is not connected to the investigation can come to the interview such as a friend, a social worker, or a relative.
We do not have childcare facilities and will not interview you if you have a dependant child with you at the time of the interview.
If the person attending the interview with you is not a solicitor or legal advisor, they are with you for moral support only. They have no right to speak, to advise you or to ask questions during the interview.
If you have a severe hearing impairment or English is not your first language (and you have difficulty in understanding and answering in English), we will provide a translator.There is no charge for this.
You can have a solicitor or legal advisor with you. You can appoint a solicitor or legal advisor yourself or your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help you to do this.
Who will interview me?
One or two officers from our Counter Fraud Team will usually interview you. These officers are specially trained to carry out interviews under caution.
Sometimes we do joint investigations with other agencies, such as
the Department for Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue. If there
has been a joint investigation in your case, you may be interviewed by
an officer from the council and an officer from the other agency. If
this happens, we will tell you at your interview.
What happens at the interview?
As soon as you enter the interview room, two cassette tapes will be unsealed from their packaging in front of you and will be placed into a tape recorder. The tape recorder will then be switched on and will start to record the interview.
Before we ask any questions our officers will explain some things to you, including:
- That the interview is being tape recorded
- That the interview is being done in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and that a copy of the Codes of Practice for the Act is available for you to consult
- You will be cautioned and advised of your rights (that you are not under arrest, that you are free to leave the interview at any time and that you may seek legal advice at any time)
- Why you have been asked to attend the interview
You will then be asked questions about your benefit claim. Our officers do not have to accept the first answer you give. They are under a duty to try to establish the truth about what has happened.
At the end of the interview you will be asked to sign a paper seal, which will be used to seal one of the tapes. You will be given a form explaining how you can have access to a copy of the tape. You will also be given a form showing what will happen next.
What happens next?
If new information has emerged during the interview, we may need to make further enquiries and consider your case again once these have been completed. We may also need to interview you again. If this is the case we will write to you to tell you what else needs to be done.
When will I know what action will be taken?
This depends on the nature of the case, but we will usually write to you within two months of the interview to tell you our decision. If the decision is likely to take longer than two months, we will write to tell you this and when it is likely that a decision will be made.
What actions can the council take?
Where we believe that there is no evidence of an offence having been committed (or even though there is evidence the we do not feel that it is in the public interest to take further action) we will write to you and tell you that we will not be taking any formal action against you. This does not stop us from collecting any benefit that has been overpaid to you.
Where we believe that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, we will consider, in accordance with its policy, what further action will be taken.
The options are as follows:
This is where we interview you and tell you that your conduct amounted to an offence but that on this occasion we are prepared to caution you as an alternative to prosecution.
A record will be kept of the caution but it is not a conviction.
To receive a caution, you must agree to receive it and admit the offence.
An administrative penalty
This is where we interview you and tell you that your conduct amounted to an offence but that on this occasion we are prepared to offer you an administrative penalty as an alternative to prosecution.
The administrative penalty imposed will amount to a sum equal to 30 per cent of the amount of benefit that has been overpaid to you (this percentage is fixed by law and is not negotiable).
You will be asked to sign a formal agreement. This will mean that you will have to repay the benefit overpaid to you plus this additional sum.
You have a 28 day cooling off period after you have signed the agreement.
To receive a penalty you must agree to receive it, but do not have to admit the offence.
A formal caution and administrative penalty are alternatives to prosecution. If you are offered one of these alternatives and refuse it, we retain the right to prosecute you.
Where we believe that we have sufficient evidence, and that the offence is serious enough, we can prosecute you in the criminal courts.
Usually, prosecution cases are heard in the Magistrates Courts, but more serious cases are heard at the Crown Court.
Even if you admit the offence, you could still be prosecuted. It is for the council to decide what option is appropriate. Their decision is final and not negotiable. There is no right of appeal against the councils decision.